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Foster Care Facts and Resources

When the White House announced a new adoption program this week they noted:

"More than 130,000 of the 565,000 American children in foster care, ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers, are waiting to be adopted. On average, these children have been in foster care for almost four years. Most of these children have special needs that limit their ability to be adopted, such as being part of a sibling group that wishes to stay together, belonging to a particular ethnic group, or having physical or emotional challenges."

Indeed, the foster care system is a big system, and getting bigger. Federal funding for foster care has grown rapidly in recent years. In 1989, the federal government spent $1.2 billion dollars on reimbursing state spending on foster care. It is estimated that by 2004, federal spending on foster care will reach $6.2 billion dollars. An increase of over 420% within 15 years.

As federal funding for foster care has increased, so has the number of children entering the foster care system. In 1989, the number of recipients receiving foster care assistance payments was 156,871 per month. By 2004 it is estimated that the number will increase to 386,300 per month, an increase of almost 150%.

There are many groups working within the field of child welfare with many different philosophies about foster care. To explore some of the questions surrounding this crucial issue in the United States, please visit the Web sites listed below:

Foster Care and Child Welfare:

2001 CDF Action Council Nonpartisan Congressional Voting Record
An action report from the Children's Defense Fund that ranks the best and worst members of Congress and Congressional delegations for children in the year 2001.

Child Welfare League of America (CWLA)
The CWLA's Web site allows concerned citizens the ability to learn more about issues and advocacy opportunities surrounding the child welfare debate. The Web site features the "CWLA 2002 Legislative Agenda," and provides access to the federal government's FY2003 budget as well as government statistics on child welfare issues.

The Children's Defense Fund
The Children's Defense Fund's Web site is dedicated to defending children's rights and ensuring each child has a successful passage from childhood to adulthood. The Web site features include an Issues page covering subjects such as, "The Black Community Crusade for Children," "Child Watch Visitation Program," "Children's Health Insurance Program," and the "Parent Resource Network."

The Cost of Protecting Vulnerable Children II: What Has Changed since 1996? (PDF)
Part of the Urban Institute's New Federalism project, the paper documents total child welfare spending at the federal, state, and local spending in FY1998.

Foster Care Today (PDF)
This paper from Casey Family Program examines the state of foster care in 21st century America. The major topics discussed include demographics trends within the foster care community, factors that create foster children, and public policy frameworks for foster care.

Helping Children and Building Families Through Adoption
This press release from the White House outlines President Bush's new initiative to publicize and advocate adopting children in foster care. To help increase awareness of the need for adoption, the President announced the creation of to help streamline the adoption process and also "tapped Bruce Willis to serve as the national spokesperson for children in foster care. "

National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR)
NCCPR's Web site is dedicated to providing information that helps to reform the child welfare system. From this Web site, users can access issue papers on family preservation and foster care as well as a child welfare timeline. Other features include "Eight Ways to do Child Welfare Right," reading lists, and a frequently asked questions page.

The David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
This non-profit mental-health advocacy group has recently brought a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the County of Los Angeles, and the State of California for their alleged "abysmal record of multiple failed foster placements and its excessive reliance on restrictive, institutional placements for children with emotional and behavioral problems." The hope to bring mental health services and systemic change to the DCFS.

Sources: Statistics from the Department of Health and Human Services found in the Children's Bureau's Federal Child Welfare Programs Today.

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